Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

review by Maryom

Isabel Dalhousie's Edinburgh is gentile, middle-class, cultured - as far away from Trainspotting as you can get in the same city - but that doesn't keep murder at bay. At the end of a concert in Usher Hall, she sees a young man fall to his death from the 'gods'. She doesn't know him but something about his accident disturbs her, and she's convinced that what she witnessed wasn't an accident but murder. Despite her reservations, and the advice of family and friends, Isabel's curiosity pushes her, for want of a better word, to investigate.
This isn't the first time I've read The Sunday Philosophy Club, and it was delightful to re-visit the beginning of Isabel's story; meeting her, her niece Cat,and Cat's ex-boyfriend Jamie as if for the first time. If anything I loved it more knowing how their personal lives would develop, perhaps feeling I was in on a secret not known to first-time readers (no spoilers, though, for those who haven't read the series).
Isabel is verging on middle-age, wealthy, and to a certain extent privileged. Hers seems to be an untroubled life, and her pondering over ethics and philosophy largely academic. As befits her role as editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, Isabel tries to live her life in accordance with her philosophical principles, but now she's found herself in a situation where they're actually being tested in a real-life situation. Is her interest in the death of this young man mere morbid curiosity, or, having doubts about it, is she morally obliged to do something? How much should she reveal of the secrets she uncovers, especially when aren't really related to the death? At times I felt Isabel could easily end up bogged down by her scruples, but fortunately she doesn't.

In many ways, Isabel's Edinburgh feels very akin to Miss Marple's St Mary Mead - there's no hint of the 'background' violence of an inner city instead a pleasant village-like atmosphere pervades the quiet streets, where everyone knows everyone else, at least by sight. But, as in St Mary Mead, behind this placid exterior lie secrets that someone might kill to protect. As I said above, I've really enjoyed re-reading this book and I'm now looking forward to re-reading more of the series, plus a newer book or two that I haven't caught up with.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Abacus
Genre - Adult Crime

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